S&P retains India’s rating at lowest investment grade for 13th year in a row

New Delhi: Global rating agency S&P on Wednesday retained India’s sovereign rating at the lowest investment grade of ‘BBB-‘ for the 13th year in a row, even as it said the economy and fiscal position will stabilise and begin to recover from 2021 onwards.
Affirming the outlook “stable”, it said though risks to long-term growth are rising, India’s ratings reflect the country’s above-average real GDP growth, sound external profile and evolving monetary settings.
S&P Global Ratings has forecast India’s economy to shrink by 5 per cent in the current fiscal. It, however, has projected GDP growth to be 8.5 per cent in 2021-22 and 6.5 per cent in 2022-23.
The Indian economy grew at the slowest pace in 11 years at 4.2 per cent in 2019-20.
“While risks to India’s long-term growth rate are rising, ongoing economic reforms, if executed well, should keep the country’s growth rate ahead of peers,” S&P said in a statement.
Affirming ‘BBB-‘ long-term and ‘A-3’ short-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings on India, S&P said it “reflects the country’s above-average real GDP growth, sound external profile, and evolving monetary settings”.
“India’s strong democratic institutions promote policy stability and compromise and also underpin the ratings. These strengths are balanced against vulnerabilities stemming from the country’s low per capita income and consistently elevated fiscal deficits that contribute to high general government debt, net of liquid assets,” S&P said.
The rating affirmation comes within days of Moody’s Investors Service downgrading by a notch India’s sovereign rating to the lowest investment grade with negative, citing growing risks that Asia’s third-largest economy will face a prolonged period of slower growth amid rising debt and persistent stress in parts of the financial system.
Fitch Ratings too has a ‘BBB-‘ rating on India, with a stable outlook. Fitch Ratings also forecast a 5 per cent contraction in India’s GDP in 2020-21 fiscal and a rebound in the next to 9.5 per cent growth.
S&P said the economic hit from COVID-19 will exacerbate India’s weak fiscal settings, but the country will get into the path of fiscal consolidation over the next three years.
“The stable outlook reflects our expectation that India’s economy will recover following the containment of COVID-19 pandemic and the country will maintain its sound net external position. The stable outlook also assumes that the government’s fiscal deficit will recede markedly following a multi-year high in the fiscal year 2021,” S&P said.
S&P said the global economic downturn resulting from the pandemic, along with strict domestic measures aimed at containing the spread of the local epidemic, are hitting the economy hard, and will likely result in a significant fall in activity in the first quarter of this fiscal year (i.e. three months from April 1, 2020). “Productive capacity has been severely disrupted during this period, and millions of workers have left their jobs to return home, sometimes crossing the country to do so. India’s labour markets have therefore weakened dramatically, and may take some time to heal,” S&P said.

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